How Toys Affect Gender Roles - For Boys AND Girls?

Photo by Shirota Yuri on Unsplash


Most of us have grown up with the cultural norms of what is expected for boys and girls to play with. Whilst we all know what they typically are, did you know that it wasn’t always like this? And more importantly, what toys your child plays with can have a bearing on their future decisions in life.

We hope we didn’t scare you off with that introduction, this story does have a happy ending. Now, let’s start.

What toys are associated with boys and girls?

NAEYC identified over 100 toys and evaluated their association with either boys or girls. They found that boys were associated with toys with aggression - Action Man for example, and that girl toys were related to beauty and appearance, such as Polly Pocket. So what about more artistic and learning-based toys? Well, they were categorized as neutral or moderately masculine and so didn’t sway to one gender.

This tells us that we in the toy industry are partly to blame for this pigeonholing of gender types, but the good news is this is changing - more on this in a bit.

How did blue boys and pink girls come about?

It wasn’t always like this though. At the beginning of the 20th century, toys were rarely divided by their genders, but come the 1940s and sneaky businessmen would start to realise that wealthy families would be willing to part with their money for a whole new set of clothes and toys, just for the difference! And thus the concept of boys wearing blue and girls wearing pink was born.

Blue Boys & Pink Girls

Source: DailyBreak

How does this affect my child?

The truth is these stereotypes do have a profound effect on children. From an early age, children will take on ideas about what jobs men and women should do and these can be hard to shift as they grow older. This is why we see fewer young girls taking up subjects around Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Whilst men will rarely have vocations in health and social work, or education.

It is widely recognised that children benefit from having a range of toys to play with, and it is this freedom of expression from a young age that will give them the confidence to try things they wouldn’t ordinarily be seen to be chosen as they begin to make decisions about their future.

The toy industry is changing

Toys are making the shift to non-binary with companies such as Mattel releasing their gender-neutral doll that comes with a variety of dress-up accessories and hair lengths. However, this won’t change how boys and girls are taught about masculinity and femininity, but that’s for another conversation.

Over the coming years, we will start to see more and more of these toys produced, and as the conscious Millennial and Gen-Z generation have families of their own, the demand for these toys will grow with it.

Mattel’s “Gender-Neutral” Dolls

Source: Slate

Let toys be toys

So, do boys need to choose the colour blue and play with monster trucks whilst girls have everything pink and only play with Barbie? Absolutely not, and this is why you won’t see a section on our website for boys and girls - it’s time to let the kids decide who to pick for playtime.

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